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review 2018-03-01 17:28
"Wylding Hall" by Elizabeth Hand
Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

"Wylding Hall," tells the story of a group of folk-rock musicians who spend the summer of 1972 in a remote Manor House in the wilds of Hampshire to put their second album together. By the end of the summer, the lead singer, a beautiful but shy young man who is fascinated by the "Magik" with a K, Alistair Crowley style, has disappeared without a trace.


The story is told in a series of modern day, rockumentary style interviews with members of the band, their manager, a psychic girlfriend, a music journalist and local boy who briefly played roadie/photographer.


This format makes the story perfect for being turned into an audiobook. The version I listened to had a different narrator for each person being interviewed. Apart from an article written at the time by the journalist, there was no text beyond the statements made by the interviewees.


The book cuts from one interviewee to the next, revealing events with bit by bit. It's easy to imagine the once beautiful, now ageing musicians, seated against a dark background and speaking directly to camera.


The story has a paranormal feel to it but leaves room for other interpretations - just about. To me, it seemed slightly spooky rather than chilling.


What held my interest was how clearly the characters were defined by the way they gave their account of events. They were heavy on nostalgia, looking back on the golden summer of their youth and that gave me permission to be nostalgic too. I liked the way their accounts were inconsistent with one another, in the way in which any long-ago event that has since become legend will be. 


The chaotic, semi-childish, drug-enabled way the young people live in their isolated house, the fugue that they fall into when spending their whole time making music seemed real to me.


The introduction of the supernatural elements was subtle. Ideas were wound around the history of the house, the warnings contained in the old folk songs they studied, the strange woods surrounding a Long Barrow and the pictures in the local pub of Wren Hunting.


It was an entertaining way to spend four hours, although it seemed to me that the drug and sun-soaked summer of seventy-two was a stranger land to visit than any of the hinted-at faerie realms touching the house.


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text 2018-01-31 18:45
January 2018-That's a Wrap!
The Warblers - Amber Fallon
You: A Novel - Caroline Kepnes
Hidden Bodies - Caroline Kepnes
City of the Dead - Brian Keene,Joe Hempel
The Complete Maus - Art Spiegelman
My Best Friend's Exorcism - Grady Hendrix
Splatterpunk Fighting Back - Jack Bantry,Tim Curran,Glenn Rolfe,Bracken MacLeod,Kristopher Rufty,Adam Millard,John Boden,Matt Shaw,W.D. Gagliani,Elizabeth Power
The Conversationalist: Horrorstruck Novella One - Justin Richards
If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating (Random House Large Print) - Alan Alda
Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

I've started the year off by reading 18 books in January.


Graphic Novels

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman 5*

Bitch Planet Volume One: Extraordinary Machine by Kellie Sue DeConnick 4*

The Walking Dead: Book 14 by Robert Kirkman 4*

Total: 3



The Warblers by Amber Fallon 4*

Infestation by William Meikle 3.5*

The Conversationalist by Justin Bog 4*

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand 4*

Total: 4



You and Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes, narrated by Santino Fontana BOTH-5*

City of the Dead by Brian Keene, narrated by Joe Hempel 3.5*

Seriously...I'm Kidding written and narrated by Ellen DeGeneres 3*

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, narrated by Rob McQuay 3*

If I Understood You...written and narrated by Alan Alda 4*

Total: 6



After the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard 3*

Dark Screams Volume Nine (Anthology) 4*

Hardened Hearts (Anthology) 4.5*

Total: 3


Random Reads

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix 4*

Splatterpunk Fighting Back (An anthology benefiting the fight against cancer) 4.5*

Total: 2



Horror Aficionados Mount TBR Challenge:

Challenge: Read 40 Books Already on my TBR

1. City of the Dead by Brian Keene

2. The Warblers by Amber Fallon

Status: 2/40


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review 2018-01-30 18:45
Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand
Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

2.1.18-I've been thinking about this book since I finished it and because of that I've decided to change my rating to the full 5 out of 5 stars!


WYLDING HALL is a fun novella that doesn't neatly fit into any single category other than, perhaps, dark fiction.


A thousand other people have already written reviews so I'll just say: this is a beautifully written example of a quiet horror story with building tension and dread.


WYLDING HALL is my second reading of Hand's work, the first being her collection SAFFRON AND BRIMSTONE, which I also enjoyed. I'm looking forward to reading more from her and I think I'll do that starting with BLACK LIGHT.


Highly recommended!


You can get a copy here: WYLDING HALL


*I bought this book with my hard earned money and this is my honest opinion.*

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text 2017-06-01 18:35
May 2017-Round up!
Boo! - David Haynes
The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge - David McCullough
Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
Black Mad Wheel: A Novel - Josh Malerman
Those Across the River - Christopher Buehlman
Saffron And Brimstone: Strange Stories - Elizabeth Hand
Dare Me - Megan Abbott
The Well - Jack Cady,Tom Piccirilli
Between Two Fires - Christopher Buehlman
Skitter - Ezekiel Boone

In May, I read 15 books! 


Graphic Novels:


The Dark Tower: The Little Sisters of Eluria

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger-The Battle of Tull

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger-The Way Station


Total: 3


Audio Books: 


The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, narrated by Bruce Springsteen

Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott



Total: 6




Skitter by Ezekiel Boone

Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman


Total: 2


Random Books: 


Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse

The Well by Jack Cady

Boo! by David Haynes

Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand


Total: 4


Total Books Read in May: 15


Reading Challenges


Horror Aficionados Mount TBR Challenge: 

(Horror Aficionados Group on Goodreads)

Goal: Read 40 books I already own in 2017


January Count: 1

February Count: 2 

March and April Count: 0

May: 2 (Boo! and The Well)

Running Count: 5


Coolthulhu Crew 2017 Challenge: 

Goal: Read Horror Books!


January Books: 5

February Books: 3 

March Books: 4

April Books: 9

May Books: 6


Running Count: 27



Graphic Novel Challenge:


(Paced Reading Group on GR)

Goal: Read 25 Graphic novels in 2017  


January count: 5

February count: 2

March count: 5

April count: 5

May count: 3

Running count: 20


Keep Calm and Read On!






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review 2017-04-07 12:55
Loved this so much
Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

I'm almost done with March's reviewing and then I only have some comics to get done, which I can talk about a day!   So easy.   I'm going to force myself to catch up before I read anything new, and that's a good incentive: if I slack off too much, I fall behind on comics and I have a huuuuge stack of comics I want to read really badly. 


That being said, I've regretted not immediately reviewing Wylding Hall.  I feel like my best reviews are usually written right after the book, riding that high or anger-fueled snark that lingers but isn't quite the same as time passes.  I will, however, try to do this book justice.  On the most basic level, it's a fictional biography of a band, and what happens when their lead singer disappears right after recording their second album; years later, the band members, manager, and even the girlfriend of one of the band members tell their stories.   A local boy joins in later on, as the band was secluded in a mansion to focus on recording; only later on does the boy come into play, but, boy, is he relevant!


And this doesn't do the book justice at all, because it's so much more than a biography, or a way to use multiple view points.  It's also a mystery, fantasy, and horror, layered upon each other.   And while normally multiple viewpoints - especially this many - feel overcrowded, and even pointless at times, Hand handles them all with aplomb.   Not only that, much like she layers the genres, she layers the stories: each person brings something new, something to hook the reader, and each layer brings with it new understanding, a subtle disquiet and unease that sustains this whole thing.   


It's eerie in the way an Algernon Blackwood story is: full of wonder and horror, awe inspiring, but with no real gore or even violence throughout.   (There are images that bring about horror, like this one particular room, but the violence is never carried out in the novel itself.)


Folk songs are a pivotal part of this story, and with it comes the art of storytelling.  This could be too much of a wink, too heavy handed, too meta because it was about the artist and thus too self-involved.   It is not.   Every time Hand tells us something about the art of storytelling via folk songs, it's integral to the story, tells us something about the way we tell stories - rather than being about the artists, and it all adds up to the general malaise in this novel.   Given how much is packed into the short novel we get here, the scope is absolutely breathtaking.   And given how little time we spend with these characters, there is so much that could go wrong: they could be unlikable as Hand focused on the point of the story she tells, or they could be sacrificed at the alter of cardboard cutouts.   They are not.  She could focus on the characters, and allow that general creepiness to falter.   She doesn't do this either.  Instead, the masterful balance she achieves always comes back to make us aware that even the quiet moments are only the calm before things get creepy as fuck again. 


This story has stayed with me, not in an ever present, I can't get it out of my mind way.   I've been a little preoccupied, though.   It's stayed with me in that when I think about it, I am once again taken away to Wylding Hall, to the little moments that just build and build upon one another.   Every time I think about this book, I am more and more impressed with what Hand's done here: the amount of time, energy, detail.   The research, the weaving together of these separate tales into one cohesive whole... 


I've written before, so I know how handling something of this sort can be mind-bogglingly difficult.   And I'm not even going to pretend I'm nearly good enough to weave together something as intricate as Hand here, but it's not my result that's important here: even the attempt makes me appreciate just how delicate a story like this is.   And it makes it even more effective for me, I think.   And it's not that I was thinking this while reading; no, then I was 100% into the story.   It was when I was forced to stop reading - to work, to eat, to talk to people - that I turned my thoughts to all the ways this story could have gone sideways in the hands of a lesser writer - like me.   


Instead, Hand gives us something that works in every way.   Full characters, a lush and dangerous world and place, and an ending that sent shivers down my spine.   Love, love, love. I will be reading more Hand very soon.

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